Alexandria, VA Police Department

The History of the Alexandria Police Department Motorcycle Unit

Celebrates 90th Anniversity

by Ashley Hildebrandt

The Alexandria Police Department was founded in 1870.  A large part of the department’s rich history is the Alexandria Police Motor Unit.  This year, the Motor Unit is celebrating its 90th anniversary.      The Alexandria Police Department began its motor unit and its relationship with Harley-Davidson in 1918 with the purchase of one motorcycle for use in answering emergency calls. In preparation for the arrival of the newly purchased motorcycle and an additional patrol wagon, city council appropriated $200 to remodel the police station, then housed in City Hall on North Fairfax Street.     The arrival of the motorized patrol wagon in March 1919 caused the Washington Post to declare, “With a motorcycle purchased about six months ago, the police department of Alexandria is now well equipped as any similar department of its size in Virginia.”     Throughout the years, the motorcycle unit has changed in size.  In 1922, the city council decided to increase the Motor Unit to three members.  The officers alternated shifts, guaranteeing there was always one motorcycle officer available.  The Motor Unit continued to expand.  In 1950, there were 10 motorcycles assigned.  However, in the spring of 1950, the unit was reduced from 10 to two motorcycles.  These two would only be used for funerals, parades and other ceremonial escorts.      Despite this setback, the Motor Unit slowly began to rebuild itself.  Today, the Alexandria Police Department’s Motor Unit has 11 members, including a lieutenant and a sergeant.  The Motor Unit is part of the Traffic Section of the Special Operations Division.  These motormen are responsible for escorts, traffic enforcement, perimeter control at emergency scenes, serious crash investigation, ceremonial duties and other assignments as needed.      To ensure that officers possess the skills and experience necessary to safely operate the motorcycle while on patrol, all officers are required to complete rigorous training.  Newly assigned officers must complete 80 hours of training before they are able to ride.  All assigned officers are required to complete 40 hours of training on a yearly basis.     The officers assigned to the Motor Unit recognize they are a part of a proud tradition.  They hope the motorcycle unit continues its success well into its 100th anniversary.

1923 Harley-Davidson Model JD Cira 1923 Officer Lawrence Padgett
Officer Wesley Snoots on a 1924 Harley-Davidson Model JD in 1925
1927 Alexandria, VA Police Department
1950s Alexandria, VA Police Department
Photo Shoot 2009 Harley-Davidson Electra-Glide
Photo shoot
Photo Shoot of Motors in Parade
2009 Harley-Davidson Police Electra-Glide in Parade
Photo Shoot 2009 HD Electra-Glide in Bike Barn
2009 Harley-Davidson Police Electra-Glide

Information and Photos provided by the Alexandria, VA Police Department